When I was about 12 we were hit with a hurricane. It wasn't anything near the brutality of Katrina, of course. It wasn't anything even remotely close to anything that slammed into Florida a year ago. I mean really, let's face it, by the time a storm trucks up the Eastern Seaboard, its not packing a full-strength punch on the coast of Jersey.
No one could stand in my parents garage today - too many boxes and old junk there now. Back then, however, it was functional. I have very clear, vivid memories of sitting in the garage, door open, as the eye of the storm passed over. The eery calm that suddenly appeared and then suddenly disappeared as ravaging winds and driving rains resumed. The moment it appeared the storm was starting its second round of assault we hurried back inside. We sat in the innermost parts of the home, away from the windows my father had placed big taped "X's" on.
We lived about 10 blocks from the Bay. We had been invited to evacuate, but didn't. My mom quickly reminded me of that the other morning when I wondered why those people wouldn't leave when encouraged to. "But, Mom," I said softly, "it wasn't a category 5 barreling down on us. It just isn't the same thing."
I ache for the people that have lost everything. I grieve for the families that will learn someone they loved didn't survive. I shiver when I wonder how long this area will suffer the lingering effects of nature's cruel side. But I have to say - sometimes I wonder what type of news from that region upsets me most - the leveled cities left in the wake of the storm, or the worst in human nature surfacing in the turmoil.
I read about a first responder who was shot while trying to rescue someone. I emailed my best friend. She's an emergency medicine doctor whose job entails leaping on a plane and rushing to the sites of major disasters and medical crisis. When the world is not upside down on its head, she works in the ER of a hospital. Things like Katrina, however, would normally pull her from her home. She'd leave her husband and 2-year old to spend 10-14 days in hell trying to put pieces back together.
But she didn't go this time. They won't take a pregnant woman with them. Its weird, listening to her talk about it. The logical side of her, the mothering side of her, is relieved to not jeopardize her unborn child. The doctor in her, though, seems disappointed that she's not down there doing what she's trained to do. I'm very proud of her. It'd embarrass her if I told her, so I don't, not directly. But I will tell you.
When we were 5, staring at our own shoes lest we have to speak to each other, I'd not have dreamed we'd be mother's exchanging emails about diapers and potty training. Normally, in my mind's eye, we're still 10. We've got on our swimsuits and towels. We're shoving our feet into flip-flops as we flee her house on bicycle. We race each other then handful of blocks to the water, moving off our bikes in a fluid movement that includes flicking our towels to the sand. We dig our toes in the bottom the bay and we splash like girls that forgot they were trying to be 'women.'
But really that's not us any more. We're grown up now, and when I can see past the memories of that girl my friend was, I see a hero in her place.